Identity theft happens when a person uses another individual’s personal information without either their knowledge or permission. The personal information is taken to commit another crime such as fraud. California has an e-crimes unit devoted to stopping Internet crimes.

How Does California Define Data and Identity Theft?

It’s defined as someone stealing personal identity or data from another either online or offline to use in an unlawful way.

What is Considered Personal Information or Data?

Personal information includes things like:

  • Name
  • Telephone number
  • Address
  • Identification numbers such as social security number, health insurance and passport
  • Birth certificate
  • Death certificate
  • Credit card number
  • Bank account number 
  • Date of birth

What Does “Unlawful Purpose” Refer To?

An unlawful purpose means to attempt to or actually obtain something of value to break the law. For example, to obtain someone’s personal data to collect a tax refund.

Can I Be Charged with Identity Theft If I Didn’t Steal Someone’s Personal Information?

Yes. In California, a criminal charge can result if someone knew the personal information or was given the information and used it for an unlawful purpose.

Is Identity and Data Theft a Felony or Misdemeanor in California?

Identity theft and data theft are “wobblers.” This means a person can be charged with a misdemeanor or felony depending on the facts of the case. A misdemeanor charge will result in one year probation and/or county jail. The offender may also pay fines and restitution. A felony charge may result in one to three years in prison.

Is Elder Identity Theft a Different Crime in California?

No, elder identity theft is prosecuted the same as identity theft in California. Elder identity theft is the theft of personal information. The only difference is that the personal information taken in elder identity theft is from a senior citizen.

Should I Consult A Lawyer Regarding My Identity Theft Charge?

Yes, contact an California criminal lawyer to learn more about your criminal charge and any possible defenses.